Sewing (dress-making)

I learnt to sew using a ‘Singer’ sewing machine, when at Secondary school, being that it was a girls school the subject of Home Economics was part of the curriculum, therefore compulsory.  Did I enjoy it? Very much so, although I would have liked to have done a woodwork class too, for I liked working with my hands vocationally, as much as, with my brains academically, and saw the value of knowing something of each for future reference.

So in this session of Home Economics we had the choice of project we wanted to sew, which had to be started promptly from start to finish, as learning to sew was only for the one term, before we moved onto cookery classes the following term: chicken in all manner of ways, glad when it rolled onto pancake day tossing!!

Side tracked there, back to what I was saying: my sewing project was a just above the knee short skirt,  as this was in the pattern box (as they have always suited me best, along with mid-calf length pencil skirts or long straight skirts and are the classics in my wardrobe outfits, also see weblink info: Skirts Advice and Tips for which skirt hemlines lengths and choosing the most flattering hemlines that work for your body), and as the pattern hadn’t had too much wear or tear, I thought I would give it a go. The colour of the fabric was a bold red colour of mixed fibre (see info on colour analysis by season and where to by a mini seasonal swatch wallet links), and I left it unlined, because the teacher advised that the fabric didn’t need it, as it wasn’t see-through and was heavy enough without the extra weight.

Weblink Article and Info: Season Color Analysis, Your Season & Colors and Colour Analysis Mini Seasonal Swatch Wallet.

It took time, and each lesson there was progress, until it was complete, as one learnt seaming, hemming, waistband attachment, zipper and button fitting. It turned out rather well, that one  of the girls at school bought it from me for a few quid, it was that finished.

Ah, yes, it was also the last year of secondary school 1982, we put on a fashion show event in our school lunch hour (the headmistress extended it so we could do the show), and I moved down the catwalk to the song ‘Fashion’ by David Bowie, wearing my new contact lenses, makeup with a face mole featured, a fedora hat, a bow tie, 3in high heel shoes, and in an outfit I designed at home which was made of  [*** HINT: two household materials.] 

…well that’s another memory to tell someday…all I can say is the school photographer had a nice time too, throughout the event, with the amount of flashing that happened!! For he also took some ‘behind the scenes’ photos before the show took place. < slight cough sound made. > As we girls could pose too, [long pause here], understand. School Photographer held the copyright. 

I also learnt from those days from my teacher; to always make clothes one size up from what you actually measure in body shape.

For example, say one usually buys clothes in a size 16 (UK), to make the same outfit from a sewing pattern one would make it in a size 18 (UK), and the reason why is for two reasons:

Firstly, when you start to sew the seams together you would do so by an inch as standard practice. Thus you are reducing the pattern pieces by that inch all round, as you will always lose an inch to the seam.

Therefore, sticking rigidly to your clothes size measurement; from the term called ‘body number vanity’ regarding vital statistics, and using your sewing pattern for example at size 16 (UK) strictly adhered to, you will then find it fits only as a size 14 (UK) if you don’t allow for the extra inch, because clothes sizes are measured by one inch at a time upwards.

For the seam allowance is the area between the edge of the fabric and the stitching line on two (or more) pieces of material being stitched together. So you must account for an extra inch seam sewing allowance and cut out the pattern after this has been allocated (also see diagram below); to be able to fit into your garment perfectly when it is finished, by going up one size in all your sewing patterns.

seam allowance

Also see video tutorial ‘Adding Seam Allowance to a Pattern’ for when you want to extend a pattern seams allowance from already cut pieces, for you would trace the original onto grid pattern paper and add in the inch around as shown below in the ‘Create or Trace a Pattern’ video tutorial. As I usually trace a sewing pattern using pattern drafting tools because I keep the original patterns intact, although it does take time to do, I then get to study the markings to be absolutely sure of what I need to do, and then use the copies to work with instead, so keeping the original pattern that was purchased as a backup, as some sewing patterns were from fashion designers therefore worth preserving.

Secondly, one has to allow for shrinkage in the fabric once your garment is finished depending on the fibre material that you’ve used to construct it.  The loss to shrinkage could be anything from ½ an inch to 1 inch loss from washing.  Therefore, it is usually suggested that you pre-wash the material before you construct the garment, also see weblink info: Checking Fabric for Shrinkage and How to care for your fabrics for further details.

But again over time, shrinkage will still occur every time the garment made is washed (this also happens for store brought clothes, some people think they’ve put on weight when in actual fact their clothes have shrunk!!). So when sewing, leaving some extra seam allowance say 1½ inches (although some sewing people allow extra seam allowance of 2 inches, for their menstrual cycle too when they feel bloated) for adjustment later on, is most advisable, and this is also why fabric knowledge is so important in sewing to find out its shrinkage percentage from the initial phrase of making clothes.

I have also acquired all the patterns lately that I wish to make, and read all the books on the subject to refresh myself and learn new techniques, so my next step is to learn more about modern fabrics: Sew Any Fabric by Claire B. Shaeffer, as things have changed abit since my school days, so I’m currently salivating over some to die for cloths that would feel great against the skin, that means no rubbing up against me please in future, oh!!! See weblink info: Fabric Measurements Guide.

And in addition to this, I am currently half way through my test garment to get familiar again with my modern sewing machine, well I have two actually, as one is a portable: Janome Sew Mini used for light weight material such as cotton and the other sewing machine is a heavy duty: Necchi for fabric such as leather. 

And once I’ve got myself going again and have understood the modern fabrics, I’m also going to be testing out for myself a computer pattern maker software for making custom-fit clothes, and the reason being for this learning curve, is because the pattern generated by the computer is according to your exact body measurements and not the standard size written on the back of a paper pattern envelope, although I’d still be making it with an extra one size up seam allowance as aforementioned, so the fit of the garment I would expect to be no different than excellent tailoring.  However, the result of making a garment from a computer software won’t be realised until sometime in the future, because of scheduling in my other projects, but I will do it to see what happens. 

As I’m easing myself back into it slowly, as what my teacher back in my school days advised: “don’t rush as you will only have to spend time unpicking!!”



Go to: Leisure Pursuits – Part 2


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